How to improve your focus & productivity with simple Second Brain in Notion?
Managing your productivity as a Software Developer and human being is vital.
Managing your productivity as a Software Developer and human being is vital. So many things are going around us - from scheduling a doctor's appointment and reading articles to finalizing a feature on a project and working on your personal website. It’s a lot. It takes time and effort to manage all that.
After reading this article, you will learn:
what’s Second Brain, PARA, CODE ideas
how to create a minimal Second Brain in Notion as a start
how to incorporate the Lean and Kanban software methodologies
my system of working on various projects
how I boosted my productivity and focus
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Bonus 🎁: I’m giving away my Second Brain + Kanban Tasks Board as FREE Notion templates. Any feedback will be highly appreciated!
At the beginning of this year, I started looking for a way to better organize my life, knowledge, projects, and priorities. I iteratively worked on creating a system where I can see:
The big picture - what am I currently working on at a high level, and how does it relate to my most significant goals and aspirations?
The weekly stuff I’m working on - what’s the week's current focus, and how does it relate to my areas of life? Is it part of the big picture, and do I get closer to my North Star?
Tacking the problem as a Software Developer
As a Software Developer with a Product-First mindset, it was crucial to understand the underlying problem to know what kind of product(s) I must create.
I already had a Kanban Board in Notion where I added my tasks and things I wanted to create and work on, but it felt that I wasn’t moving toward my highest aspirations. That’s why I decided to step back and list my problems.
Problems I was facing
I had many tasks on my To-Do list with no clear relation between them - How do they help me achieve my end goals?
Not being able to see the Big Picture from the current list of tasks. Do they help me achieve my end goals? Do I move toward my North Star?
How do I manage the knowledge and resources I accumulate over time?
Mediocre Priorities & Lack of Focus
No single place for storing “stuff”
Starting point and guiding principles
I took 1 step back and decided to start with 1 book - “Building a Second Brain” by Thiago Forte to get new ideas and points of view. After reading it, I decided to try this concept and build my own Second Brain and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) System in Notion.
I started looking on the Internet for ready-to-use templates, but what I found was either too complex to start with or just a shiny template that I had to reorganize a lot.
Returning to my Product-First mindset, I approached the problem using the Lean Software Development methodology. I decided to create an MVP (Minimum-Viable-Product) of my Second Brain and new Notion workspace.
Move Quickly, Touch Lightly.
What is a Second Brain?
It’s a concept that refers to a digital system for capturing, organizing, and retrieving knowledge and information. It’s a personalized knowledge management system that enhances one’s ability to store and access valuable insights and ideas.
It consists of 2 main ideas - C.O.D.E. and P.A.R.A.
It’s a framework for effectively managing information and turning it into knowledge, emphasizing the importance of gathering, structuring, simplifying, and sharing information for better understanding and learning.
A key concept here is:
Leave it better than you found it.
Whenever we open the same note, resource, page, etc., we organize it, summarize it, and leave it more compact than before. Over time, everything will be put into place.
It’s a framework used to categorize, organize, and manage different types of digital content. It helps to maintain clarity and structure in our digital lives. The main idea is to organize your notes based on their actionability.
The MVP - simplistic Second Brain
Step 1: The Second Brain
As you can see, it’s really simple and minimal. I improve it over time when I see that the current structure is not good enough.
Step 2: Kanban (Tasks) Board
Step 3: Connect step 1. and step 2.
Now, we can see the Bigger Picture and how the tasks relate to each other. We have more clarity on what areas of our lives we work on each week and what’s the biggest goal we’re trying to achieve.
For instance, Draft v1 → key points is a task to help me kick in the blog post. I see that it’s related to my Software Craftsmanship enhancement and progress.
Of course, nothing should be part of a more significant project. Reading a book is a task on its own. We do it for fun, learning, or something else. If you think it’s part of something bigger, add it. If not, leave it on the Board so you can track it.
🎁 Refer to the FREE templates in Notion, for more information and to better grasp the MVP.
Current workflow and system
Having my Second Brain + Kanban Tasks Board in Notion gives me more clarity and visibility about my current priorities, work of focus, aspirations, and projects. I can see which areas of my life I’m working on and which lack care.
I have a scheduled event on my Calendar every 2 weeks to review the last 2 weeks and plan the next 2 weeks. This way, I’m flexible enough to change my trajectory at any time but still focused on certain things for at least 2 weeks. On each Review, I do a Retrospective - what went well, what can be improved, and write down some ups & downs, if any.
For example, I had some rough weeks of doing many public presentations. In the end, I saw it was too hard and exhausting to do many at once, which also didn’t leave any free time to do other stuff. This was a great lesson and reminder to myself to be careful of accepting different opportunities since my energy tank is limited.
If I didn’t have the current system and flow, maybe I would have missed that failure, learning, and clarity.
Don’t try to make it right from the first version. Embrace the iterative approach. Every time, make it better than before.
“Analysis Paralysis” | “Perfectionism kills art!”
Yes, there are endless possibilities of what to do and who to become. But you should choose one path.
Accept the fact that you are a limited human.
Not only you’ll feel saner. But you’ll see how the scene you dreamed about is taking shape.
The joy of missing out.